Friday, November 02, 2007

RWA Ridiculousness.

I can’t tell you how much it saddens me because I LOVE the people, but every day it seems RWA does something else which just makes my jaw drop open. (I’ll be short, I promise. Rant ahead, though.)

RWA has about 9,000 members who all pay the same fee.

(The same fee is the important bit.)

Then, they allow published authors (IF they are not published by a vanity press, and every press not listed in their list is, by their language, a vanity press ... even though they "don’t connect their list with PAN criteria) to get EXTRAS. Like a special part of the website no one else is allowed to see, extra sessions at National that no one else is allowed to go to, extra articles that the general membership is not allowed to see.

They don’t pay for these extras.

Then there’s PRO authors, who have finished a manuscript and jumped through their hoops. They get extras, too. Extra lists, extra articles, extra parts of the website, and extra sessions an National.

They don’t pay for these extras.

Well, today RWA sent out an email.

They wonder if those of us involved in electronic presses would like to attend special workshops FOR AN EXTRA FEE.

Give me a break.

70 - 80% of the members do not get these extras, and yet they pay for them. This REALLY strikes me as biting the hand that feeds you. I would never, ever, not in a million years, I’d walk through fire, cut off my hand, whatever, but I would never do that to my readers.

I just heard a bestselling author who is in full support of this segregation say that the RWA’s RWR magazine is a great way for authors to reach 9,000 members cheaply. It made me roll my eyes at her hypocrisy because RWA is taking money from regular members and giving the benefits to a select group.

(I guesstimate they receive around $700,000 in membership fees from general members, and about $200,000 from PRO and PAN members.) (Sorry about the laziness of math. It’s somewhere around there.)

It would be fine if they allowed access to all things to everyone who PAYS THE SAME MEMBERSHIP FEE. It would be fine if they decided they wanted RWA to be a PAN-only group, and they stopped taking money from general members. But they don’t want to do that, because they want the money.

It’s clear, however, that they want the best of both worlds: the money general members bring into the organization, and the feeling of an author-only group.

I can’t think of a single organization I would rather NOT support more, and yet there are so many wonderful people in the organization, that it’s really given me a struggle. My only two choices are to stay and keep hounding for no segregation, or to quit.

The only benefits of writer’s organizations are cameradie. The rest is all bullshit, really. But that doesn’t mean we can close our eyes when PANs and PROs take advantage of the general membership (I agree that they are doing it unintentionally, but ... the end result speaks for itself). We have to look at and talk about the bullshit, don’t we?

Just because it’s not pleasant to talk about, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve things.

15 bonus scribbles:

Bailey Stewart 11/02/2007 09:07:00 PM  

You're correct. It doesn't seem fair at all.

Kate S 11/02/2007 10:01:00 PM  

Ugh. I have the envelope by my desk still waiting for me to renew my dues. I'm not sure I want to. I keep putting it off because of my ambivalence.

I know that on the one hand, if I hadn't met all the great people I did through the RWA and learned all I had through it, I would never have gotten published because I was entirely clueless.

On the other hand... now that I do know those people and where to find all that information, what good are they doing me?

I'm not considered a "real" writer per their views, nor (according to them) is my publisher a "real" publisher.

Hmm... maybe I'll save that $75 (+ $50 more in local/regional dues) and spend it on holiday gifts for friends and family instead.

Danika / OpenChannel 11/03/2007 01:51:00 AM  

I don't get this. Why don't they just have two levels of memberships and fees, one for "non-published" authors and one for "published authors"? That's how we run Women in Film. We have Associate members (who pay less and have fewer benefits) and full members (who have professional film/tv experience) and are working to establish a senior member category for women with 10+ years of experience in the industry.

I don't write romance novels, but a lot of my friends do so I'm rooting for you all!

Bernita 11/03/2007 06:41:00 AM  

I agree. It's ridiculous.

Aimless Writer 11/03/2007 11:12:00 AM  

I've only been with RWA a short time but wondered about this very same thing. I didn't understand why PAN was so special or why I was excluded. Can anyone tell me what goes on in those PAN sessions?What am I missing?

Erica Orloff 11/03/2007 11:48:00 AM  

Hi Spy:
I don't belong to RWA. I'm into the logic of Groucho Marx:

LOL! But in all seriousness . . . I strive my whole life to meet people as people . . . and there's never been any group with dues and so on--whether it's the PTA, a church, RWA, etc., that doesn't at some point become hopelessly mired in pettiness. So I go to a church and I put money in the collection plate, and I work doing social services through it, but I would never sit on the board. I will support projects the PTA does but will never go to a meeting. I would do just about anything for writer pals--critique manuscripts, offer advice, look over contracts, anything they ask--but I won't join RWA. Precisely because pettines and ugliness arise. I just find it best to stay above the fray because when issues like this come up, it does seem patently unfair and upsetting.

Angie 11/04/2007 07:55:00 AM  

Yeah, that's really messed up. Of course, all the non-PRO and -PAN members who keep writing the checks are letting it happen, so we should really spread the responsibility around a little.

Out of curiosity, I went to the web site and tried to figure out whether I qualified. After clicking around a little, I found that I don't qualify yet because I haven't made enough money. OK, I can deal with that. But even after I've made enough money on some single title (and it's going to be a while because my next story going up is a novelette so I need to submit a novel or novella and what does RWA have against shorter stories?) I'm still not sure I'd qualify.

(And frankly, if I can sell 2223 copies of one short story, I think I should qualify, LOL!)

Just what does "publishers whose primary means of offering books for sale is through a publisher-generated Web site" mean? I mean, what's "primary?" Most of Torquere's sales are through the web site (which is fine with me because my royalty is larger for those sales) but it also sells through Fictionwise and Amazon. Is that good enough? Or do we have to dig up actual percentages and how the heck do we do that?

This is silly.

But I definitely agree that people who get fewer benefits should pay lower fees.

Speaking of benefits -- what exactly does RWA do for its members? OK, it puts on the national conference every year. I've run SF conventions which probably have a wider aray of activities than a writing conference, and I worked the Computer Game Developer's Conference for about a decade, for a pro conference comparison. Putting on a conference is a lot of work, yes, but it doesn't take a national organization to do it. And it's not like the organization's members are getting in for free.

Do they provide any insurance plans? That'd be useful, since freelance writers often don't have any, or have to pay a truckload of money to buy individual insurance.

Emergency fund? SFWA has a couple of those for its members.

Will they go to bat for you if your publisher or agent tries to mess you over?

Workshops and such are great but there's a lot of info about writing and the industry out on the web now. If I'm going to pay money to join any professional writer's association, I want more than, "Hey, we offer workshops on how to write a great query letter!"

What's ironic is that people would probably be perfectly willing to send in those checks for what's essentially a big social organization that throws a convention every year if it weren't for the multi-tier privilege thing. People like hanging out with others with similar interests. What they don't like is being messed over, especially when it costs them money.

Back in the eighties I'd have loved to have been able to join the RWA. Now I can (at least at the peon level) but at the moment I don't particularly want to. And that's sad.


spyscribbler 11/04/2007 11:18:00 AM  

Sorry! I bring up a topic and then leave for the weekend!

Bailey, I just love that kitty. I know I've told you that a million times, but every time I see your picture I smile!

Kate, I hear you. I think I'm leaning on the side of renewing, simply because I love the people I get to talk to and hang out with.

As far as what National does for me? Nothing. I was writing and published before RWA, and I will be long after I'm not a member. I hate supporting National, but ... I do like my local group.

I don't mean to sound sexist, and this is a stereotype, but it seems every time I join a group of all women it gets ridiculous with the petty this and the that. Cliques form and then they snub "ex-clique" members, and ... it's just a lot of heartlessness.

I don't get that.

spyscribbler 11/04/2007 11:23:00 AM  

Danika, that would be a solution. How does it work out in the "Women in Film" group?

Yes, Bernita, definitely!

Aimless, it depends on who you talk to. At the conference, they have a whole schedule they don't let anyone but PAN members see. I've had several PAN members outright lie to me, evade the question, and say they "mostly just sit around and talk about being depressed."

But then other PAN members told me that Chris Vogler (of the writer's journey) came, and Robert McKee, and all sorts of bigtime sessions that non-PAN members were excluded from.

In addition, PAN and PRO members get a day of specialized "retreat" sessions before the main conference starts.

Oh! And if you go on the website, PAN and PRO each have their own special section with articles they don't let anyone else read or see.

spyscribbler 11/04/2007 11:28:00 AM  

Erica, that is HILARIOUS! I need to approaching things that way. I'm a big fan of volunteering and supporting the organization and all that, but ... the rest of the ugliness isn't working out for me.

And that's what bothers me the most about this organization, is that THEY decide that you're "not at the level" to need this or that information.

As a teacher, I'm a big believer in the fact that the student needs to decide what they need. I usually give my student's choices for which piece they want to play, mostly because I believe they have an instinct for selecting what they really need, you know? The student ready and the teacher appears?

So for RWA to say that they'll decide what people need to know--and when in their career they need to know it--just drives me bonkers, LOL.

spyscribbler 11/04/2007 11:31:00 AM  

Angie, you're absolutely right. But they don't advertise it much: when you sign up for the conference, you don't KNOW that you are paying for things you won't get. They won't even let you see the PAN course offerings.

The weird wording is, I think, because they want to include Ellora's Cave and all their money, but they want to exclude the other epublishers.

I can make it in with the numbers, but I'm not clear on the weird wording. I could try, but I'm not into that. I just don't feel good about it, so I don't want to do it, you know?

LOL ... but I'm happy enough being put out that I'm being denied information, LOL!

Michelle,  11/04/2007 11:42:00 AM  

Natasha, I saw the whole thing about extra info on small / e-pubs, but I didn't pick up it was for an extra fee. I thought it was something that would be included in general membership.

I am ambivalent, myself. I love the people I've met through RWA, but I was recently stunned by the reaction to a suggested change on one of the RWA-run loops I'm on. Stunned. I felt like turning in my membership then an there at the hysterical reaction to a sensible, well-worded request for change. The responses varied from the condescending ('let's stop causing trouble now, and get back to writing, girls, okay?' type thing) to the rude. It really left a bad taste.

spyscribbler 11/04/2007 07:51:00 PM  

Yeah, they tagged that little "extra fee" bit in the middle, at the end of a sentence. Made my jaw drop.

Michelle, I know. I felt that "stunned" feeling over the big broo-hah over two very cute outfits. And that "shame on you for bringing it up" attitude for anyone who wants to discuss a problem, even intelligently and as nicely as they can, irritates the heck out of me. I mean, we have to talk about problems if we're going to fix them! And it's like if you talk about it, they treat you like a leper because they don't want that negativity in their life.

And at the same time, I respect that choice, too. (Can you tell I'm a Libra, yet?)

There's such wonderful people, it's been GREAT to meet them. I love that part of RWA. But then some people act like we should just be grateful for that and turn a blind eye to unfairness.

Honestly, it's exhausting. I don't know how to reconcile the ugly side and the good side together. I just don't know. I've been struggling with that all year.

Ello 11/04/2007 09:38:00 PM  

I've never joined a writer's professional organization before and don't know that I ever will when I hear stories like this. I guess at the end of the day, they are having a hard time making ends meet?

Anyway, not cool - but all nonprofits go through times like this.

Lori G. Armstrong,  11/05/2007 09:22:00 AM  

I dropped my RWA membership after 7 years this year. Yeah, they wouldn't let me in the PAN club - even though I met every qualification and was nominated for a 2007 KOD du Maurier Award. I tired of pay $90 in membership fees for...a magazine! Where the letters to the editor were inflammatory. And where everyone bitched about erotic romance being crap. I don't have a local chapter, so I don't have any great friends to miss. RWA did not a single damn thing for me in seven years except make me feel like I wasn't a real writer.

Just wishing I would've quit paying dues sooner and not fallen for their line of crap that I *need* them to learn to be successful.